According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Burton told journalists that Republican vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan told "a bold face lie and he doesn't care that it was a lie", adding: "That was Goebbels, the big lie."
The Chronicle has Burton issuing the same slur against the Republican Party as a whole, stating: "They lie and they don't care if people think they lie...Joseph Goebbels – it's the big lie, you just keep repeating it."
Even in the heat of an election campaign, comparisons to members of the Nazi party are out of bounds. And Obama aides were quick to distance the president from the comments. "That obviously doesn't represent the views of the campaign. That doesn't have any place in the political discourse here in Charlotte."
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt was quoted as saying when asked
about the comments. LaBolt's rebuke was not enough to prevent the comments serving as an unwelcome distraction to Democratic strategists as they prepared to open the party convention in North Carolina.
Ryan Williams, an aide to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, took to Twitter to condemn Burton's remarks, and called on Obama, DNC chairman Antonio Villaraigosa and California governor Jerry Brown to denounce the California Democrat.
"When will @BarackObama, @Villaraigosa & @JerryBrownGov denounce CA Dem Chair Burton's outrageous Nazi comments?" he asked in a tweet.
The Romney campaign also released a statement from former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, the national co-chairman of the Jewish Americans for Romney Coalition, condemning the "Goebbels" remark.
Coleman said: "President Obama promised to lift up American politics. Unfortunately, some of his supporters, by employing rhetoric that has no place in our political system, are bringing it down to the gutter." He added: "The comments by California Democratic Chair John Burton likening the Republican Party to Nazis and Joseph Goebbels are just such an instance. All people of good will should repudiate such disgraceful words."
This is not the first time Goebbels, who served as Hitler's minister of propaganda from 1933 until his death in 1945, has surfaced as a contentious comparison in California politics. Governor Jerry Brown was similarly criticised in 2010 after drawing the same comparison with Republican challenger for office, Meg Whitman.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010